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Sticky: Starting a Healthy Aquarium- Allowing Your Aquarium to Cycle

Many people hear the word bacteria, and they automatically think of sickness, gross, dirty, and disease. The truth is, most bacteria are actually not harmful. In fact, in all environments, bacteria make the very base of every cycle of life. Without bacteria, the base wouldn’t be there, creating an unstable and unhealthy environment. This is especially true in an aquarium. An aquarium needs to have a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in order for fish to live long and healthy lives, and to cut down on maintenance work keeping your aquarium clean.

Beneficial bacteria neutralize toxins from aquarium waste, such as animal excretions and extra food.  Without the good bacteria, these wastes build up and release poisonous toxins that are harmful to fish and other aquarium inhabitants. Without these bacteria, your fish and other animals will get sick and eventually die.

The best time to create a good healthy base of beneficial bacteria is when you first set up a new aquarium. The key component when cycling a new aquarium is exercising extreme patience. The bacteria need time to grow and colonize your filter and the surfaces in the aquarium itself. If you add your animals to the aquarium before a sufficient amount of bacteria have grown, you’re going to be putting your fish at risk.

newly cycled aquarium

Newly cycled aquarium

There are several ways to cycle an aquarium. One way is to set up your aquarium completely, without adding your fish or animals and letting it run for two to three weeks. Adding very tiny amounts of fish food to the water as the aquarium runs will help expedite this process. Another way is to add fish very slowly- fish that are hardy and can take a small amount of toxins. Guppies are a good choice of fish. Many experienced fish keepers use feeder guppies for this task, as they’re cheap yet tend to be very healthy and good at dealing with steep swings in water quality, which is normal as a tank first cycles.  Goldfish are NOT good fish to cycle aquariums with. They excrete more waste than a growing colony of bacteria can handle, and you’ll have a difficult time cycling your tank with them. The last and fastest way to cycle a new tank is to add beneficial bacteria that are commercially ready to simply pour or toss into the water. If you use the EcoBio-Block Products, your tank will remain cleaner much longer with less effort.  Once you put in the product, EcoBio-Stone does the rest. These additives will take weeks away from the cycling process, allowing you to add your animals faster to your waiting aquarium.

There are a few signs that will let you know when your aquarium has finished cycling and is ready for inhabitants. You should test the water for ammonia and nitrites with simple to use testing kits that you can find at any pet store that sells aquarium supplies. During the time the tank is still cycling, if you test every day, you’ll notice at first a very fast spike in ammonia then in nitrites. When these go down and your nitrate levels go up, then it is safe to put in your fish. Aerobic beneficial bacteria in your tank feed on organic waste breaking them down into ammonia, then into nitrites and then the nitrites get broken down into nitrates. As the days go by, with more food for the bacteria in the tank, the bacteria will grow and multiply. Sometimes you’ll see cloudy water in the tank- this is normal. This is just a bloom of bacteria floating in the aquarium water column. Anaerobic bacteria in your tank will cause the nitrate levels to decrease. When your tank has finished cycling and your aquarium environment is balanced, your water should be clear. EcoBio-Stone keeps levels of beneficial bacteria high in your tank, which keeps your aquarium water clear, clean and healthy.

Conventional aquarium cleaning techniques remove these bacteria from the environment. Completely changing filter material, constantly vacuuming aquarium gravel and continuous sterilization of aquarium furniture and other decorations kills and removes these good bacteria. To keep the bacteria in your tank and keep your tank looking clean, simply remove bits of extra uneaten food daily, and wipe down the glass of your tank with a clean cloth or sponge. Once a month, clean out your filter material by gently rinsing out the filter with aged and tepid water, which will keep the bacteria in your filter but remove debris. Try to not over feed your fish, as this is the usual main reason for fish deaths and unhealthy aquariums, even after you allow your tank to cycle.

Cycling your tank is a natural process when starting your new aquarium. Given some time in the beginning, your fish tank will reward you with long lived and healthy inhabitants for years to come.

 

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Tips in Selecting an Aquarium Tank

There are many things to consider when selecting an aquarium tank. One of them is the size of the aquarium. To determine the ideal size for you, you have to know the kind of fish that you are putting in the aquarium and exactly how many of them. Also, try to find out how big your fish can grow. If you buy a fish without finding out its maximum growth size, you may someday find your aquarium tank too small or too crowded. Remember to choose the aquarium that will be big enough for all the fish at maximum growth size.

The amount of water that the fish needs is also a factor to look into. Follow this rule of thumb to find out how much water your fish will need. A fish that will grow to adult size of less than 4 inches, like guppies and tetras, will require a gallon of water for every inch of fish. A large fish like the cichlid will need at least 55 gallons and the angelfish, at least 29 gallons. It is essential that your aquarium tank is able to hold the amount of water that all your fish need.

Size of aquarium tanks vary from two and a half gallons to several hundred gallons. They come in various shapes too: rectangle, round, bow front, hexagonal or cylindrical. If you’re a beginner, you might want to buy the prepackaged kit that contains all that a beginner will need to start. This may include the aquarium outfitted already with filter, heater and light. Pick the smaller tanks for starters for minimum maintenance. Just remember, not too small or your fish will not have enough room to be healthy.

You will have two choices in materials for your aquarium tank. Glass tanks are generally less expensive and more available. Glass will not scratch easily but can be very heavy. They also are not as flexible as acrylic so shapes are limited. Acrylic tanks, on the other hand, being lighter, boast of a wider range of shapes and sizes that you can pick from. They are, however, more expensive and more easily scratched.

A filled aquarium will weigh about 10 pounds for every gallon of water. So a large aquarium will really be very heavy. Bear this in mind when choosing your stand. You do not want to put it on anything that might collapse under the heavy weight. There are specialized aquarium stands built in metal or wood that could provide the necessary support for your aquarium. Some even have compartments for your aquarium supplies. Be sure also that your aquarium comes with a lid or a ‘hood’ and that it’s the right size for your tank.

After making your choice and purchasing an aquarium tank, put it in a bathtub or your backyard and fill it with the right amount of water. Connect and plug all the equipment like the heater and the filter and let it stand overnight. You should always do this before putting in the fish to determine if there are leaks and that your equipment works properly. With the correct aquarium tank size and type, and proper precautions in ensuring the safety of your fish, you guarantee them a happy and healthy life in your aquarium tank.

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